Young Sherlock Holmes is continuing his stay with his aunt and uncle in the Hampshire countryside following the events chronicled in Death Cloud. He is homesick for his family and unabashedly delighted with an unexpected visit from his elder brother, Mycroft. By eavesdropping, he learns about potential fugitives from the recently ended American Civil War that may be hiding out in his local area. Expectedly, Sherlock and his pals are itching to investigate, which they do, subsequently setting off a chain of events that take them to the American continent and into the lair of a 19th-century super-villain.
As in Death Cloud, the future Master Detective is still very, very average. He is emotional, he does not think things all the way through, and, quite frankly, he is not very observant. He is brave, however, and very intelligent, both traits helping him (and his friends) to stay alive all the way to the end of the book.
I certainly did not expect this series to present a teenage carbon copy of the adult Holmes, but it seems to me that by the end of the second book, there should be some evidence that he possesses more than the ordinary skill set of a 19th-century 14-year-old English boy. Where the first book centered on running, chasing, and rowing, this one centers on more running, violin playing, and disguise.
The lack of deductive reasoning (by any character) is another major disappointment in the entire project thus far. For many fans, that has been the anticipated discovery in the original stories, as well as in modern iterations (most especially the latest BBC series), and one wonders when the author is going to get around to introducing similar elements into this set.
Rated: Mild. A few low-level swear words, but a pretty hefty body count, associated with some descriptive violence.